Crisps, Betties, Buckles and Slumps: The Who’s Who of Fruit Desserts

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As the farmers markets do their gradual turn to summer fruits, the seasonal-produce eaters start getting a little extra pep in their step. It’s an exciting time. At first many will just gorge straight on raw fruit, and soon enough we may be buying more than we can eat...and when that happens, it’s time to get baking.

There are the usual suspects, pies and tarts and crisps, but then there are the eccentric relatives – like the grunts and slumps and sonkers. These are the rustic cousins, progeny of steamed European puddings, that rely less on precision and more on a mix of what's on hand. They're somewhat irreverent, and a bit messy with their bubbling, oozing juices, and utterly lovely.

What are the various options when it comes to fruit mixed with flour and sweeteners and popped in the oven? Here’s the cheat sheet for quirky baked fruit dishes.

Betty or Brown Betty
A Betty is a baked pudding made of spiced and sugared fruit cooked between layers of buttered crumbs. Betties come from an English dessert closely related to the French apple charlotte – and was a popular dish made during colonial times in America. The most common Betty is the Apple Brown Betty, which is made with brown sugar.

Bird's Nest Pudding
Also known as Crow's Nest Pudding, this dish contains apples with the cores removed and filled with sugar. The apples are then nestled and baked in a bowl formed of pie crust.

Buckles traditionally use blueberries, and are made in one of two ways, either a bottom layer of a cake-like batter with the berries mixed in, topped with a crumble mixture -- or by a layer of batter, layer of berries, and then a layer of crumble. Blueberry Buckle is the most prevalent Buckle recipe found. The name? It’s been suggested that it came around because of the streusel-like topping that gives it a buckled appearance.

Cherry Clafoutis

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This famed French countryside dessert (pictured above) is the perfect marriage of a cake and a pudding. It usually contains cherries on the bottom, custard, and a rough batter crust baked on top. Often the pits are left in, imparting a subtle almond flavor, and the stems are left on, poking up like a forest of bare trees. The cherries can be pitted and stemmed, but left intact, the rustic touch is nice.

A cobbler is an American deep-dish spoon pie topped with a thick biscuit dough. Some versions are enclosed in the crust, while others have a drop-biscuit or crumb topping. Most agree that the dish got its name because the lumpy biscuit topping brings cobblestones to mind.

Crisps may be one of the simplest, and best known, baked desserts -- with the fruit on the bottom and a crumb topping. The crumb topping is made with anything ranging from a basic flour streusel to nuts, bread crumbs, cookie crumbs, oats, or sometimes even breakfast cereal.

Crumbles are the British version of the American crisp.


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Grunt and Slump
Grunts and slumps (pictured above) are the result of early Colonists’ attempts to recreate English steamed puddings, yet using only the very basic cooking equipment available at the time. It’s a simple dumpling-like pudding (much like a cobbler) using local fruit and topped with biscuit dough, often cooked on the stovetop. In Massachusetts the fruit stew dessert was called a grunt, in Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island, the dessert was referred to as a slump.

This is a deep-dish dessert most commonly made with apples and molasses or brown sugar. The topping is a rolled dough that is broken up and submerged into the fruit while baking, allowing the fruit and juices to bubble up around it. Pandowdies can also be served inverted.

This North Caroline native is a deep-dish pie/cobbler using a variety of fruit including strawberry, peach, cherry...and even sweet potato. Recipes vary, and run the range from a cake-like batter to biscuit dough to pie crust.